New Product Spotlight – Weathered Locomotives

21 01 2014

Hard work and harsh weather quickly take their tole on trains. It doesn’t take long before the gleam of fresh paint is covered in soot, dust and grime. And before you know it, the rust starts creeping in. All of this weathering alters the look of a locomotive and makes each one unique. Recreating these effects in miniature is an art.


Weathered for a realistic in-service appearance, the massive 4-12-2 is even more impressive!

Weathering is one of the best ways to add realism to any model. While attacking the perfect finish of a fine model can be intimidating, by selectively highlighting certain details, weathering often enhances more of a model’s original beauty rather than obscuring it. And, like the prototype, each weathered model is unique.

We’ve presented some tips on weathering here on the blog in the past. While starting with an inexpensive freight car is a great way to learn, stepping up to a LEGACY locomotive can be scary. Lionel has partnered with artist Harry Heike to bring you the look of some hard-working locomotives without any fear.


Subtle weathering effects call out the many small details on the 4-12-2’s massive boiler.

A life-long enthusiast and modeler, Harry has turned his love and talents into a commercial venture since 1998. He has already produced more than 75 prototypes for Lionel so there’s a good chance some of his handiwork is already on your layout! Now you can see his artistry first-hand with three new weathered locomotives.

We’re launching this weathering effort with some unique locomotives. For steam fans, there is the massive Union Pacific 9000. These 4-12-2’s earned their keep along the midwestern plains. For more history of the prototype and all of the features of these amazing models, see this earlier blog post.

PRR Sharks

Battles with the Alleghenies kept the Pennsy’s freight diesels in an almost constant coat of grime.

We’ve chosen an equally distinctive diesel prototype for weathering as well. The Baldwin RF-16 “Sharknose” A-A diesels powered freight trains over many northeastern lines. Weathered versions will be available for both the B&O and Pennsylvania. For more background and model features, see this previous post.

B&O Sharks

Weathering doesn’t have to be excessive to be impressive. Subtle effects greatly enhance the details on even the B&O’s classic paint scheme.

The locomotives are being weathered to reflect a few years of operation – hard working but well-maintained machines. Note that each model will be hand-weathered by the artist, so no two will be exactly the same.

Take your roster to the next level of realism with these new weathered locomotives. Just be forewarned – after seeing how good these look you might be tempted to try your own hand at the process.

The weathered AA (Powered and Non-powered) Sharks retail for $829.99 and the weathered 4-12-2 for $1299.99. See your dealer to order your custom masterpiece today.

Environmental and Budget Friendly Model Railroading

23 04 2013

Railroads are one of the most environmentally friendly means of transportation available. Whether we’re talking a packed commuter train rolling into a city, or a mile-long train of shipping containers crossing the continent – the economies of scale and the mechanical advantages of the railroad make a world of difference.

bone yard

It may not be a happy scene, but this locomotive’s scrapping will lead to new creations.

Despite the iconic image of smoking steam locomotives, railroads have long had a tradition of supporting the environment. Some railroads designed locomotive fireboxes that could burn culm – or waste from coal mines that was too inefficient to use elsewhere. Cinders were used for ballast in rail yards. Old equipment was reassigned to work service or rebuilt to extend its life. If it couldn’t be reused, scrapped rail cars were melted down into new steel. Recycling like this wasn’t just good for the environment, it was good for the bottom line.

Our model railroads can do the same. There are endless options for recycling everyday materials for use on our layouts. From making interesting loads, to scenic details to re-purposing older models like the prototype, the thrifty modeler can accomplish a lot on a tight budget. In honor of this week’s Earth Day celebrations, take a look at some of these recycling tips from our modeling pages:



Using natural and recycled materials, this scene was finished for less than $10!

Scenery is one of the easiest ways to accomplish a lot without breaking the bank. After all, what could be better to reproduce nature than natural materials? These supplies are convenient, realistic, easy to use and cheap! Take a look at our scenic display diorama. This whole project was completed for under $10 by using recycled materials from around the house.

Here are some more specific tips you can use for any model railroad:

Recycled Loads

tie down

A plastic bag, thread and scraps make a great load.

Freight cars are always more interesting when we add loads to help tell the story. You can turn almost anything into an interesting load for a gondola, flatcar or even inside boxcars. I’ve seen everything from soda straws to building blocks to a broken camera lens turned into amazing loads with nothing more than a coat of paint and a few extra details. Here are a few we’ve made:

  • Tarped Loads – A plastic bag and scraps of foam and thread make a great mystery load.
  • Scrap Loads – Turn your broken parts into something new.

The Bone Yard

bone yard

Rows of equipment await their fate in the bone yard.

Follow the prototype’s lead and reuse some of your older equipment. This project made use of old shells and broken  models to create a realistic scene. From turning a caboose into an office and a reefer into a storage shed, to cutting up old locomotives, this yard has lots of examples of reuse. You’ll also find great simple and cheap scenery tips to build your own:

All of these tips will help you save money and reduce your scrap pile a little. But best of all, you won’t be sacrificing quality at all as you add your own character to your layout. Give some of these tricks a try – and feel free to share some of your own!

Freight Car Weathering – “Bulging” Car Sides

24 10 2012

Freight cars can take quite the beating. Nowhere is this more true than with gondolas. Aside from the usual scrapes, rust and grime, after a few years in service, it is not uncommon to see the sides of a gondola bulging and distorted between the side posts.

bulging gon

This old Conrail gondola has distressed sides, even a few replacement panels, and also a noticeable sag! Recreating the effects of years of heavy loads is easier than you think on a model.

There have been several articles published in the model railroading press over the years on how to best recreate the look of these distressed side sheets. Perhaps the most common method is to use a soldering gun to heat a screwdriver or other implement of destruction and press the sheets from the inside of the plastic car.

This method works, but it does require some practice. A challenge with most of our plastic models is that our car sides are much thicker proportionally than the prototype, making it harder to recreate the look.

A second option is to remove the plastic all together and replace with a thin sheet of brass or other metal that can then be distressed just like the prototype with a few good whacks from a hammer and objects like a nail set, screwdriver, etc. This technique also yields great results, but it is a lot of work (unless of course you’re starting with a metal model with scale-thin sides.)

An Easier Way


Begin by placing drops of white glue on the sides of the car where you want the distortions.

Our bone yard display needed at least one gondola loaded with scrap – and it would only be appropriate to show some wear and tear on the car as well. For this car, we’re going to show a very simple method of getting the bulged panel look without any cutting, melting, or even hammering. The secret is a little white glue.

The technique is actually quite easy. Simply dribble drops of white glue onto the sides of the car where you want to create a bump. Study prototype photos for reference. The bulges will start at the floor line (not necessarily the bottom of the side on the exterior) and work up toward the top chord. And most bulges tend to be deepest near the center of the panel.


Looking from the side, the glue does not have to be super-thick. It will lose a lot of this volume when dry.

After the first coat of glue dries, you’ll notice it has lost a lot of its volume. No problem. Simply add another coat, and another, and another if necessary to get the result you desire. Each time you can place the glue a little differently to build up the odd shapes and character of the prototype.

When you are happy with the results, the car can be painted. We’ll cover this more in next week’s blog as we complete this gondola project.


After 24 hours, the multiple coats of glue have set and are ready for paint or weathering.

It is worth noting that the other methods for distressing the panels also usually end up with repainting the car. Melting the sides usually results in some pretty wavy lettering and if you’re replacing the panels, well that should be quite obvious.

But of course unless it was recently shopped, most cars with distressed panels like this will also show plenty of other signs of rusting and weathering. You can use the techniques described in earlier blogs to weather your model and still save the original paint and lettering in critical areas if you are careful about where you place your bulges.


After a quick coat of paint, the effect is very convincing. We’ll cover painting our model next week.

The only other disadvantage to this method is that the interior of the gondola will not show any signs of wear. However, if you plan to load the car with scrap as we do, that won’t matter!

Stay tuned in the coming weeks as we repaint, weather and load this car. Maybe it’s a project you’ll want to try at home!